The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief, May 30, 2017
  FEATURED STORY            

TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2017


The UK air carrier was working to return to a full flight schedule on Tuesday after a reported power failure over the weekend caused major disruptions and displaced tens of thousands of passengers in dozens of countries. A technical problem that began on Saturday morning forced the airline to cancel all flights from its hubs at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London. Services resumed on Sunday and Monday but many cancellations and delays persisted.

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz said he was “profusely sorry” for the incident and blamed a “power surge” at a data center and a failed backup system. He said there was no evidence the computer problems were the result of a cyberattack. Analysts say that BA could have to pay out more than $100 million under an EU scheme that demands payments for flights delayed by at least three hours as a result of reasons within the airline’s control. (BBC, NYT, Guardian)


Warrantless Surveillance: The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia reversed a lower court’s decision to throw out a lawsuit brought by the Wikimedia Foundation against the NSA for violating the Fourth Amendment. The three-judge appeals court said that Wikimedia had standing to sue. The ruling increases the chances that the Supreme Court may someday review the NSA’s controversial practices, analysts say. (NYT)

Target Breach: The big box retailer agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle claims by 47 states and the District of Columbia and resolve a multi-state investigation into the massive breach of its computer systems in late 2013. Target said the total cost of the data breach had been $202 million. (Reuters)


WannaCry: Researchers at Symantec said it was "highly likely" that a hacking group affiliated with North Korea was behind the ransomware attack this month that infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide. Pyongyang denied the claim as "a dirty and despicable smear campaign." (Reuters)


Social Media: U.S. officials and cybersecurity experts warn that state-sponsored hackers are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter posts to launch spear-phishing attacks. Social media users are more likely to be trusting and click on malicious links, they say. (NYT)


Chipotle: The fast-food chain said that hackers used malware to steal customer payment data from most of its restaurants over a three week period early this year. Analysts said Chipotle would likely face a fine based on the size of the breach and the number of records compromised.

Subtitles: Cybersecurity researchers have demonstrated how hackers can embed malware in subtitles on popular video players and services such as VLC Media Player, Kodi, Stremio, and Popcorn Time. In each attack scenario, the malicious subtitle file must be selected to run with the video. (Threat Post)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Russia Probe: In his first full week as special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Robert Mueller is reportedly off to a quick start: building a team, designing a budget, and forcing the FBI to withhold from Congress documents he may be interested in.  (WSJ)

Surveillance Law: More than two dozen U.S. tech companies pressed Congress to make changes to a broad internet surveillance law, saying reforms were necessary to improve privacy protections and government transparency. A contentious debate is expected later this year over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, parts of which--including the controversial 702 program--will expire in December without congressional action. (Reuters)


NSA Staff: Former intelligence officials fear that the so-called Shadow Brokers hacking group may publicize identities of people working for the NSA. If exposed, these individuals could be subject to charges when traveling abroad, legal analysts say. At least one NSA worker has already been revealed. (WSJ)

  THE WORLD                                     

China: Beijing is expected to adopt this week a controversial law that mandates strict data surveillance and storage for firms working in the country, the official Xinhua news agency said. Critics say the new law threatens to shut foreign tech companies out of sectors the country deems “critical.” (Reuters)

Malta: The island country says it has become the target of a growing number of phishing and distributed denial-of-service attacks since its government assumed the presidency of Europe’s Council of Ministers in January. Maltese leaders say Russia is behind the campaign. (Guardian)


Inside Russia’s Social Media War: “For many Americans, Russian hacking remains a story about the 2016 election. But there is another story taking shape. Marrying a hundred years of expertise in influence operations to the new world of social media, Russia may finally have gained the ability it long sought but never fully achieved in the Cold War: to alter the course of events in the U.S. by manipulating public opinion. The vast openness and anonymity of social media has cleared a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces,” writes Massimo Calabresi in Time.


BA Has No Good Excuse: “Whatever back-up systems BA had in place, they are woefully deficient if they cannot withstand a power cut. No chief executive today can afford to underestimate the threat posed by either cyber attack or more mundane IT glitches. Equally inexcusable, though, was BA’s failure to look after families left in limbo. Those executives responsible for such errors should be held to account. Mr Cruz must be ruthless with his subordinates who dropped the ball, but as chief executive, he is ultimately responsible,” write editors of the Financial Times.

Russian Hacker Partners With the Florida GOP: “The hacking spree that upended the presidential election wasn’t limited to Democratic National Committee memos and Clinton-aide emails posted on websites. The hacker also privately sent Democratic voter-turnout analyses to a Republican political operative in Florida named Aaron Nevins. Learning that hacker ‘Guccifer 2.0’ had tapped into a Democratic committee that helps House candidates, Mr. Nevins wrote to the hacker to say: ‘Feel free to send any Florida based information,’” write Alexandra Berzon and Rob Barry in the Wall Street Journal.


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